Volume 76, Number 3 | June 7 - 13, 2006


Gino Raffetto, 83, of Raffetto’s on W. Houston St.

By Albert Amateau

Gino Raffetto, who ran Raffetto’s, the 100-year-old family food shop in the Village until he retired in 1992 when his sons took over, died May 23 in his home above the store in the same building where he was born 83 years ago.

He had been struggling with a cancer recurrence for the past two years, said his son Andrew, who with Gino’s other son, Richard, runs the business with Gino’s widow, Ramona, at 144 W. Houston St.

Although born on W. Houston St., Gino Raffetto was raised in Italy and served in the Italian Army during World War II. He made his way back to the Village in 1956 and worked as a banker until he took over the family pasta business when a cousin retired in 1972.

Known a Gino, he was baptized Eugenio, but was listed on his driver’s license and passport as Louis.

“It must have been a mistake at Immigration when he came back to the U.S.,” said Andrew.

Gino’s father, Marcello Raffetto, emigrated from Ognio, a village in the hills just north of Genoa, and founded the business with his brothers sometime after 1900.

“We have a bill from M. Raffetto & Bros. at 174 Sullivan St. just around the corner, but it doesn’t have a date. We do have documents from 1906 about the move to 144 W. Houston St. and we date the founding from then,” said Andrew.

Before Gino was a year old, his father retired, left the business in charge of his brother, Antonio, and returned to Genoa in 1923 with his wife and their infant son

A student in Genoa pursuing a medical career, Gino was drafted into the Italian Army in 1941, the same year his father died. He was a gymnast at school and kept his enthusiasm for the sport.

“He was thinking of putting up parallel bars on the roof at 144 Houston but he decided it was too dangerous — a mistake could send you over the edge,” Andrew said.

After the war, Gino went to England where he worked in a jelly factory and lived in a boarding house near London.

“He used to talk about the tough boiled rabbit that the landlady served for dinner,” said Andrew.

Gino arrived back in his native country in 1956 and lived with an aunt in the Village, where he met his future wife, Romana Marin, an immigrant from Asolo, a small town near Venice.

“I met him in the Peacock Caffe on W. Fourth St. a few months after I arrived in this country,” his widow said. They got married in 1957.

Gino worked for the Rockefeller Center branch of Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, an Italian bank, for several years but bought into the family business in 1972 when a cousin, Ray Raffetto, retired.

Gino ran the business with another cousin, Angelo Raffetto, who died in 1978, and continued in charge until 1990, when his two sons, who had worked in the store since they were boys, took over. But he continued to participate in the concern for another two years. Raffetto’s moved its pasta manufacturing operation to Leroy St. in 1992 and moved it again to New Jersey when the company sold its Leroy St. property.

“We’ll never leave this place,” said Andrew in an interview last week at 144 W. Houston St.

A cousin, Father Luca Marin, a Scalabrinian priest stationed in Paris, came to New York to lead a private funeral Mass on May 29 at a chapel in Perazzo Funeral Home, 199 Bleecker St.

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